1 Peter 1:20 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

1Pe 1:20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you

1 Peter 1:20 has variously been used to prooftext the idea that every detail of the crucifixion of Christ was known before the world was created. James White comments in his debate with Bob Enyart:

So we have the cross, right? And yet according to Acts chapter 2, “This Jesus delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” Well, you can’t have foreknowledge if you don’t have knowledge of the fore. And so God has a definite plan. And the cross has been a part of that plan. In fact, as Peter tells us, it speaks of Jesus, “the lamb slain for our salvation foreknown before the creation of the world.”

James White might be mixing verses. 1 Peter 1:20 seems to be conflated with Revelation 13:8. 1 Peter does not have anything in context about being “slain” or the “cross”. The context is about God having a redemption plan:

1Pe 1:17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear;
1Pe 1:18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers,
1Pe 1:19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.
1Pe 1:20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you
1Pe 1:21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

What is Peter trying to communicate here? According to those who would have this be a divine determinism prooftext, this means that everything that ever happened in relation to Jesus was predestined (not “from” the foundation of the world as the text says, but predestined “timelessly”). This includes everything from the cough of a Roman soldier to the wood patterns in the cross.

But this seems like a stretch. Having a redemption plan sounds standard fair for a fallen world. And no Old Testament texts are explicit with any cross prophecy. If Jesus would have died by “execution by sword”, not one Old Testament text could be pointed out as a failed prophecy.

Additionally, the word for “foreknown” is used of human beings in the Bible (Acts 26:5) and used in the ancient world to mean “plan” or “specify”, as in Plutarch (“furnish”):

Let so much suffice for general occasions of freedom of speech. There are also particular occasions, which our friends themselves furnish, that one who really cares for his friends will not neglect, but make use of.

In any case, claiming that this word implies immutable knowledge of future facts (“you can’t have foreknowledge if you don’t have knowledge of the fore”) is not warranted by the use of this word in the Bible or in the ancient world.

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